Air Board denies key permit for Mountain Valley Pipeline, dealing critical blow to beleaguered fracked gas project


Jessica Sims,
Gabby Brown,

Chatham, VA — Today, in a victory for environmental justice, the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board voted 6-1 to deny the air quality permit for the proposed Lambert Compressor Station. The station would have connected the beleaguered Mountain Valley Pipeline to a proposed ‘Southgate’ extension into North Carolina. Had the permit been granted, nearby communities would be subjected to additional air emissions of carbon monoxide, particulate matter 2.5, and formaldehyde — substances known to contribute to respiratory problems, heart disease and cancer. The permit denial is a clear victory for communities working tirelessly to protect their health and homes from corporate polluters — and a major setback for the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

Without this key permit, the Mountain Valley Pipeline and its Southgate extension are unlikely to ever be built. The MVP mainline project lacks necessary federal and state authorizations, has racked up more than $2 million in fines for more than 350 water quality-related violations in Virginia and West Virginia, is years behind schedule and continues to face stiff grassroots opposition. Investors are abandoning projects like this amid growing attention on the true climate impacts of fracked gas, which primarily consists of methane — a greenhouse gas at least 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The United Nations and International Energy Agency both recently found that the world would not be able to meet its climate goals and avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis unless we immediately reduce gas use and replace it with clean electricity.

The Air Board received public input for two days in Chatham, VA, where more than 80% speakers warned of disproportionate health impacts to minority communities from air pollution, impacts to the climate, and the environmental injustice from the proposed station. This mirrored the overwhelming 90% of public submissions received during the Spring 2021 public comment period that asked the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to deny the permit. Ahead of the hearings, 16 Virginia Delegates voiced environmental justice and health concerns about the compressor station.

In articulating their permit denial, Board members cited the negative health impact this additional industrial facility would have on air quality in the region, as well as the lack of a thorough environmental justice study, including identification of and outreach to people of color and/or low income living within three to five miles of the proposed Lambert Compressor Station site.

Lynn Godfrey, Sierra Club Virginia Chapter Community Outreach Coordinator, said, “No one should be asked to sacrifice their air, water, and health so that fossil fuel executives can make a quick buck in a world transitioning to clean energy. This is a win for Virginia communities who already live with elevated levels of fossil fuel pollution, and everyone everywhere who wants a livable future for their children. The writing is on the wall if the wealthy investors backing this project are willing to read it: the age of fossil fuels is over, it’s time to drop this polluting pipeline.”

Elizabeth Jones of the Pittsylvania County NAACP Environmental Justice Committee said, “Environmental and climate justice is a civil rights issue. We all depend on the physical environment and its bounty. The Air Pollution Control Board’s denial of the air permit to MVP ‘s Lambert Fracked Gas Compressor Station took courage. We have faith that we can protect our communities.”

Virginia Field Coordinator for Appalachian Voices Jessica Sims said, “The citizen Air Board was right to deny the permit sought by MVP Southgate—the project is unjust, and the proposed permit was wholly insufficient to protect human health and the environment. The Chatham community’s incredible work opposing the ruinous Mountain Valley Pipeline shows that neighbors can stand up to big fossil fuel companies and win — especially when their fellow citizens serving on state boards do the right thing. It’s past time for this destructive project to be canceled.”

Elle De La Cancela, Central Virginia Grassroots Organizer with Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said, “The Chesapeake Climate Action Network would like to thank the members of the Air Pollution Control Board for acting in the interest of the citizens it represents, and standing up to an extractive industry that is reliant on the suffering of marginalized people. No longer will our regulators be swayed by proposed claims of economic benefit, which in truth are nonexistent and only cause more harm. It is abundantly clear that the only way for us to ensure a thriving future is to continue to deny faulty permits and stop the MVP and all new fossil fuel infrastructure.”

“For many months, our movement has been demanding a stop to the Lambert Compressor Station in Pittsylvania County. Today, the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board opted to deny the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s air quality permit, which is necessary for the compressor station to be built. This is a key step forward in the movement to stop the environmentally-unjust, dangerous Lambert Compressor Station and the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Now we march onwards to ensure an end to this unnecessary fossil fuel project and a livable future for our communities,” said Russell Chisholm, Co-Chair of Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights (POWHR).